Today is my last full day in India. I finished my volunteering in Mumbai and have spent the last week and a half traveling with two of my sisters. It was so special to share a piece of my time here with them. Now, I’m sitting in a little café in Rishikesh, solo again, overlooking the Ganges and Himalayan foothills searching for words to summarize my experience fully.
I’ve tried a few different beginnings to this post and they’ve ranged from existential crisis to disconnected and rambling mixes of thoughts. At the beginning of this experience, writing felt easy. I just described my surroundings as an observer. Now, I understand the “what” around me much better, but the “why,” “how,” and “now what” have become more and more confusing, complicating, and haunting. My first impression of India was that I wouldn’t be able to fully describe the experience to anyone, but I didn’t realize that I myself would be included in that group while I try to process the ups and downs of the past 2 months. I don’t know that I’ll be able to fully wrap my head around the ways this experience has and will continue to shape me until long after I’m back in the US.
For now, I don’t want to forget. When I don’t have an umbrella and get rained on, I want to remember the little boys who proudly and excitedly took me under their own as they led me to clinic when I was lost in a slum during monsoon. When I buy groceries, I want to remember the familiar toothy grin of the man at the fruit stand I visited every morning. When I get overwhelmed, I want to remember the Buddhist monk who taught me that the gap between discomfort and letting go is understanding. When communication is challenging, I want to remember the kindness of the community manager in clinic who taught me Hindi phrases so that we could talk. When school is stressful, I want to remember the sheer elation I felt when my coworker tapped me on the shoulder to exclaim that she’d passed her final MBA exam. When I see my parents, I want to remember how special it felt when my mom texted me that she wished we could get brunch or when my dad sent me a funny meme—things so casual and natural which felt so juxtaposed. When I have children of my own and watch their Little League games on manicured baseball fields or see their dance recitals in air-conditioned theatres, I want to remember the joyful little boys I saw playing cricket in the slums.
India, for me, has redefined joy. The people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had have filled me with more love and life and passion than I’ve ever felt. While a part of me is excited to fly home tomorrow, it also feels a bit like turning the page on one of the most invigorating, moving, inspiring, and influential chapters of a book. But, for now, I still have today, and I’m spending it immersed in the joy I have found here.